With Earth Day right around the corner, it’s only natural to start thinking green. As it turns out, thinking green seems to be a year-round habit nowadays. According to Nielsen, more than half of consumers globally are willing to pay more for products and services from companies that are committed to the environment. As our values for spending money change, our shopping habits need to change, too.
Buying local – whether for food, shoes or books – can support a greener community. That’s because locally owned businesses are often more invested in their communities and the environment around them than their national chain and big-box competitors. Small businesses, particularly local restaurants and farmers’ markets, often source products made in the local community, which means fewer fossil fuels are burned to transport goods to the marketplace.
Similarly, small businesses also require smaller infrastructure. They can easily spring up around Main Street or other town centers, creating a more walkable community. More walkable communities, in turn, encourage healthier, more sustainable transportation methods, such as walking or biking.
Contrast the environment of small businesses with that of national chains and big-box businesses. According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), Walmart’s self-reported greenhouse gas emissions increased 14 percent in the 10 years from 2005 to 2015. As the number-one U.S. importer of goods by sea, Walmart’s emissions increase likely represents a significant jump in unhealthy air pollution.
Plenty of national chains, Walmart included, have set lofty sustainability goals in recent years. Yet time and time again, change on the environmental front seems to come from the local level. For instance, ILSR tracks community ownership of renewable energy sources, such as “shared solar” programs. Last April, data showed that community ownership of such renewable energy programs was growing, with forecasts predicting more growth in the future. In its report, ILSR highlighted success stories like that of a 35-member LLC in Maryland working together to install solar panels on a local church and a group of 200 Iowa residents financing six community-owned wind turbines.
To truly go green, it is important to think local. Local businesses encourage healthier communities that are less dependent on fossil-fuel-based shipping methods, while community groups increasingly invest in sustainable projects like renewable energy. As Earth Day approaches, find a local business in your area with Independent We Stand’s Locals Only search engine to spread the local-level thinking.